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Engineering Aerospace vs. Mechanical Engineering Careers

  1. Jan 22, 2009 #1
    I am just entering as a junior in my undergrad program, and have one semester left of classes which can apply to either degree. So soon I will have to make a concrete choice regarding which degree I am going for.

    Hopefully some ME's or ASE's out there can give me some advice.

    Personally, when looking over the curriculum of each degree, the aerospace course line looks much more interesting to me personally. Classes such as "Fundamentals of Aero Flight," "Flight Structures," and "High Speed Aerodynamics" sound so much better to me than classes such as "Vibrations" and "Kinematics of Mechanisms." I see myself hopefully working in a design career, meaning structural, aerodynamic, or mechanical design of aircraft (and hopefully one day spacecraft).

    However, it sounds as if Aerospace is so specialized, that job security may not be as good as a Mechanical degree. I understand a Mechanical major can do anything from production to aerospace. I also understand, however, that once you are employed in a type of career for a while, your degree is much less important than your work experience in so far as what kind of jobs you can find.

    My university also has an accelerated graduate degree program which I am considering and need to apply for soon. I may apply 12 graduate courses to my undergrad degree. I may also mix degrees. So for example, I could take my undergrad in Mech. and my masters in Aero. Would this add any job security to my career? Preferentially I would take both in Aero.

    Just looking for general opinions, I guess, on what kind of things an aerospace engineer can expect to be employed for versus what a mechanical engineer may be employed for in Aerospace, and the general level of long term job security or Aero compared to a mechanical engineer. Do most companies generally make a clear distinction between Aero and Mech when hiring for a position in aerospace related fields? Or are they considered mostly interchangeable (at the recently graduated level)?

    Thanks for any opinions!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 24, 2009 #2
    There is a lot of interchangeability between Mechs and ASEs since a lot of their curriculum does overlap. However, there will probably be a preference for ASE majors in certain occupations that focus on flight dynamics, control theory, high speed fluid mechanics/dynamics, aerodynamics, and orbital mechanics as those are more specialized courses.

    Generally speaking, you probably wouldn't have to worry about job security as an ASE even though the economy is in a slump right now due to the reduced number of ASE graduates in recent years...

    And of course, there are basically two primary industries to go into: Military/DOD or Civilian related. Obviously the top opportunities, or most sought after by ASE undergrads, are in defense/aerospace companies like Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing, Raytheon, and of course the less DOD side, NASA, and other contractors they use.
  4. Jan 28, 2009 #3
    Even if you do not get a job with one of the top contractors like Lockheed or Boeing, you can still easily get a job at a smaller defense firm because the top companies and even the DoD and NASA tend to spread out their contracts especially when they deal with multipart projects.

    Also, due to the complexity of general aerospace projects (A satellite or airplane), you will cover most if not all mechanical engineering concepts in your studies and first few years of work.
  5. Jan 28, 2009 #4
    My school recommends people to major in one of the traditional four fields of engineering (Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical) and then specialize more in your graduate work (Environmental, Aerospace, Biochemical, etc.). This is based on the feedback given to the school from employers.
  6. Jan 28, 2009 #5
    I will note that I've known cases where students had a hard time getting funding for graduate work in ASE. Not that this should be a complete discouragement... just be careful about where you go if you intend to pursue graduate work.. make sure funding is available.
  7. Jan 30, 2009 #6
    When you work in aeronautics comes the day when you and your colleagues go out to watch the maiden takeoff of an aircraft you helped to build. It's perhaps not quite so easy to get that level of job satisfaction in other industries. (Naval architecture ain't bad either).

    If you have a passion for aeronautics or aerospace then you'd better live it to the max. Otherwise, find what really does interest you and maximise that potential.

    Job security? There ain't none no more so fergeddit.

    None of this answers your question, but I think you'll get my point. We need both passion and judgement in our decisions.
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